Location: Sol Duc Hot Spring
Distance: 19 miles (Loop)
Elevation Gain: 4000 feet
Highest Point: 5370 ft
Time: 10 hours
Much thought and trepidation have been given to take on this herculean trail due to its distance and elevation and the logistic of getting to TH with the pricey and popular Sol Duc Hot Spring Resort as the only nearby lodging. All that changed with the record low snow pack of ’14-’15 winter, suddenly the trail, normally snow clogged well into July, was cleared of it by Memorial Day, way before ONP’s peak tourist season. It’s rubber hits the road for me on this sunny first weekend of June.
Mile 1 to 5 Getting There
“There” is the crest of High Divide Trail. Admission to this paradise cost 3000 + ft of vertical gain over 5 miles through mostly mundane canopied trail, though Sol Duc Fall at mile 1 and Deer Lake at mile 3 provided brief distraction. BTW, this was the counterclockwise approach.
Mile 6 Should I have Lunch at Lunch Lake?
With view improving constantly and grade lessening, Seven Lake Basin junction was reached. A quick detour affords the stunning view of Round and Lunch Lakes several hundred feet below. I could not resist the seductive Lunch Lake, and plunged to lake side. Unfortunately, hordes of mosquitoes interrupted my time by the water, and the steep ascend back to main trail was the toughest stretch of my journey. Moral lesson? Lunch Lake visit demands a nice leisurely lunch on site to be worthy of the effort.
Mile 7 Unveiling of Mt. Olympus
It’s only natural after a hard climb out of Lunch Lake that the main trail decides to gain big elevation too. Between huffs and puffs, glimpse of the majestic Mt. Olympus massif eased my physical toil slightly.
Mile 8-10 Ridge Supreme
The trail is now flanked by tree lined, meadowy, lake dotted Seven Lake Basin to North and the distant snow capped Mt. Olympus and Hoh River Southward. Visual euphoria, aka Hiker’s high, ensued.
Mile 11-19 Purgatory
It’d be quite unfair to characterize rest of the trail as drags; however, with the exhaustive highs, this section was the fitting lows. The usually pleasant downhill tree lined trail morphed into an insufferable endless treadmill.